Street Photography – Everything You Need to Know

Street photography is a genre of photography that captures the day-to-day life of people in a public setting. However, street photography may also be devoid of people and be filled with objects or an environment associated with human presence. For example, capturing the shadow or a discarded object leaves an intriguing effect on the viewer, as they signify an unfinished story. To excel in street photography, you have to be a reasonable observer. With observation, you can convey hints, feelings, ideas, stories, or questions that prompt your viewer.

Best Photographers of Street Photography

Looking at the works of great photographers enhances your understanding of how each artist has aimed to portray their observations differently. Here is a list of photographers to start with:  

Garry Winogrand

Robert Frank

Martin Par

Bruce Davidson

Is Street Photography Illegal?

While photographing in a public place, a photographer records the unposed moments of random people without their knowledge, which makes it look quite creepy. But as long as you use an image for artistic purposes, you don’t fall under the scrutiny of local laws. However, commercial use of these images is not encouraged in many countries. While in some other countries, you require your subject’s permission to photograph them, which poses a fresh challenge to capture their candid moments. However, you may adopt a non-candid street photography technique involving eye contact with your subject to overcome this challenge. 

What is Good Street Photography?

The most significant aspect of good street photography is to have a clearly defined subject. Following this, you have to compose the image using the rules of composition to convey a story that elicits an emotion in your viewer. The provocative effect of this emotional response in your viewer decides the success of your street photography.

Street Photography Cameras And Equipment

1. Camera

For street photography, you can use any camera depending on your level of expertise and needs. You may consider buying the below-mentioned cameras.  

Level Of ExpertiseTypes Of CamerasBest Choice
Aspiring PhotographerMirrorless cameraFuji X100 series or the X-T line
Beginnera point-and-shoot or a smartphone

Canon Powershot G1X Mark III

Phone Cameras:

iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 

Experimental or Adventurous photographera film cameraLeica M6 or Mamiya 7
Quality ImagesDSLRNikon D750 or Canon 5D Mark IV

How to Find the Best Camera for Street Photos?

Easily portable 

Street photography involves a lot of walking; hence opt for a smaller camera system that is easily portable.

Appear Concealed

Candid poses can be taken only when the subject is in his organic state. When they notice the camera, they become conscious, which challenges your candid photography. As a result, avoid cameras that come with shiny silver bodies or colorful housings.


Cameras with quiet shutters are noiseless, and they greatly help while stealthily clicking your subjects. 

Lightning-Fast Autofocus

Capturing candid moments demands a camera with a fast focus. This will ensure you don’t miss out on any excellent shots that you may encounter, especially when the subject is moving. 

Fast Shutter Speeds

Street photography involves shooting street scenes and subjects that are constantly in motion.  For this reason, your camera should have a fast shutter speed to capture the action quickly.


2. Lenses

There are two types of lenses available. They include:

  • Zoom lenses
  • Prime Lenses

Most photographers prefer using prime lenses as they are:

  • Smaller and less noticeable
  • Use the same focal length, which makes you aware of your frame, and learn where to stand to frame your subject.  

Additionally, using a single focal length improves the effect of your images.

Tips on using the lenses for street photography

  • To shoot at darker times of the day or indoors, choose a fast lens with a wide aperture like f/1.4 or f/1.8 
  • While using an SLR, use a lightweight prime lens such as 35mm or 50mm.

Some great prime lenses for street photography include:


Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART Lens

Buy at Adorama


Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART Lens

Buy at Adorama


Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 Lens

Buy at Adorama


Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens

Buy at Adorama


How To Do Street Photography?

Before meeting people to click their images, you need to be prepared with specific camera settings and a pair of comfortable shoes to walk long distances with ease.  

Camera settings 

Deciding to venture out for shooting, you must ensure your camera has the perfect exposure to capture the moment of your interest, which may occur surprisingly. For this purpose, you need to decide the look of movement or control over the depth of field.  

Look of motion

Work in shutter priority and vary your shutter speed to obtain the desired action.

Types Of MotionShutter Speed
Freezing1/500 or faster


Depth of field

To control the depth of field, work in aperture priority and opt for:

Types Of DofAperture Priority
Shallow DOFWide
Greater DOF Narrow


Street photography is one of the most challenging and rewarding arts to master. However, to start with, confront the fear of facing strangers and improve your hand-eye coordination. Then, choose a bustling location with lots of people, and notice their behavior and appearance to identify a subject. Next, use compositional rules to position your subject and look for patterns, textures, lines, and light to enhance your subject’s beauty. Further, while you approach or photograph people, you have to remember specific rules of conduct to ease your journey. They include: 

Respect privacy and local laws

Although you can exercise your right to take pictures in a public area, you have to consider the expectation of privacy. For this, go through the local privacy laws and remember the ethics of shooting. For example, even in a public setting, you cannot photograph in someone’s bedroom window.

Respect and Smile

As a street photographer, you may think that photographing someone is right. But you may encounter a subject who doesn’t want to be photographed. In such a case, respect their priority, apologize, and move on.

When your subject has noticed you photographing them, thank them with a nod and smile or show them their pictures. This way, you can avoid any awful feelings. Further, if they ask you to delete their image, do so and move to avoid confrontation. 

Photographing Children

Photographing children is tricky as you need to handle protective parents who may get angry if you don’t get their consent prior. If you bump into an excellent scenario involving a kid, try to get their parents’ permission and share your contact information. Some parents may be happy to get their kids photographed with sophisticated equipment. In case if you don’t find their parents, conceal the child’s face while you compose to avoid any potential conflict.  

Photographing the Less Fortunate

As a photographer, if you wish to tell an impactful story of someone’s life, you may photograph the less fortunate. However, it is better to agree to their privacy rights.

 Approaching Strangers for street portraits

For excellent street portraiture, approach your subjects and have a flattery talk with them. For example, tell them you love the way they smile and would like to photograph them. Also, let them know that you are a photographer who is documenting life in a town. This way, you can establish a good rapport with them and get your most desired street portrait. Then, once you capture their image, get their feedback, and remember to send them their photo.  

Getting started with street photography

Avoid being noticed

As a photographer, you should avoid dealing with people stopping to ask if you took their photos. For this, you can incorporate some light acting, like capturing your subject’s image and keeping the camera near your eyes even after they have moved.

Shoot from a Distance

Initially, you can start shooting from quite a distance without getting too close to your subject until you feel comfortable. Hence, take a documentary approach consisting of environmental scenes with interesting characters. 

Shoot from behind the Glass

To overcome your subject’s fear, shoot from behind the glass into a building from the street. The presence of windows gives you illusionary protection.  

Shoot the Backs of People

You can also try shooting people from their backs until you feel comfortable. This is one of the great ways to photograph people without being seen. In such a case, look for interesting attires that people wear and shoot them. 

Focus on emotion and gesture

Once you get comfortable photographing people from a certain distance, you can try to get as close as possible to your subject. Once you get closer, focus on their emotions, gesture, and some other attractive characteristic traits that will intrigue your viewers.  

Photographing Street Musicians (Buskers)

Street musicians are often engrossed in music, and they are filled with a lot of gestures. Shooting them is an excellent opportunity for a beginner that you don’t want to miss. Therefore, before shooting them, ensure to drop some bucks for them and photograph them without guilt.  

Photograph Street Animals

Street animals are excellent subjects for street portraiture. However, when capturing them stoop down to their level and make an interesting shot with a close and broad perspective.  

Capture Silhouettes

A great theme for street photography is capturing a silhouette anonymously. Capture a silhouette with strong backlighting or look for a subject who passes in front of a bright window. Additionally, you can underexpose your image or spotlight on them using exposure compensation. These techniques bring in your subject’s shadow along with the background. Further, take care not to include the elements of the silhouette in your frame.

Spot the Decisive Moment

As a photographer, you may encounter a moment that fits your composition naturally. It is at this instant that your hands and eyes must immediately coordinate to capture. Although this skill comes with practice and intuition, it requires some luck and a good understanding of your camera too.

Advanced Tips for Intermediates

Standout with imperfection

Street photography depends on capturing images with spontaneity. At times, this quickness may alter your image, bringing in some grains or unexpected distortions. But surprisingly, these elements improve your photography.  

Play with Light 

While photographing, always consider the light source in that direction and its impact on your shot. You also have to take into account how light influences your subject and background. Sometimes there may be a direct harsh light. Street photography allows you to use intense light to obtain light and shadow. It enables you to observe how pockets of light play when people walk in and out of it. Additionally, look out for color pops emerging out of the darkness. Take care of the exposure while you shoot and use exposure compensation to expose your subjects to the light.

Click photos of your interest

Although you photograph images from a viewer’s perspective, grab a chance for yourself to create a very personal and unique work of yours. This will be a signature work for yourself. 

Sings of an aging journey of photography

As you age through your journey, you may feel specific changes that will prevent you from photographing. However, embrace these changes and move forward to get exciting images. For example, while photographing a particular location, you may find it boring or conventional, but it may attract others. So, you can look for something interesting in that area and try to get an excellent image.

Zone Focusing

One of the most effective technical skills required in street photography is zone focusing. In this technique, you manually prefocus the lens to a certain distance, adjust your camera setting to a deep depth of field, and wait for the subject to reach your zone. Then, finally, you photograph the subject.  

Understanding yourself

As you add up to your archive of photos, you may notice a consistency in your work. This consistency will give you more ideas, themes, and projects in photography. To know yourself and your job better, split and categorize your work into different ideas. Eventually, you can plan for these ideas and grow organically.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is street photography so popular?

Street photography is popular as it offers

  • An avenue of creative opportunities
  • A portrayal of people’s lives and their surroundings.
  • A record of different moments in time

Do I need a model release for street photography?

A model release is not required in most countries until the person captured is in a public setting. However, research the local laws before starting to photograph as these laws vary by country or region.

Videos on Street Photography


Street Photography

Street Photography Composition 101


Although street photography is the most challenging genre, it is a perfect reflection of your street life perspective. Explore different focal lengths and play with light settings, to know your preference.  

Alternatively, suppose you want to unravel a story capturing emotions and gestures. In that case, this is the genre you will have to try. Further, this will hone your photography skills and earn you the distinction of a versatile photographer.